Nikita Gale: PRIVATE DANCER at the California African American Museum (photo by Elon Schoenholz)

Bright flashing lights, a monumental stage, blasting speakers, a commanding performer — these are just some of the typical elements of a live concert. Who knows when we’ll next be able to safely experience a performance in this way, which perhaps makes it an apt time to reflect on how we’ve experienced concerts and what we expect from them.

“I always feel like my responsibility to the viewer is to kind of provide a framework for questioning their experiences in different ways,” says the artist Nikita Gale, who has an exhibition titled PRIVATE DANCER at the California African American Museum (CAAM). A direct homage to Tina Turner’s 1984 album of the same name, Gale’s installation imagines what happens when you remove the figure of the performer from the concert space. Amid industrial cranes, strobe lights dance to the rhythm of Turner’s album, but we can’t hear the sound of the music itself.

Jasmine Nyende, Gabrielle Civil, and mayfield brooks (image courtesy CAAM)

Performance artist Gabrielle Civil relates to Gale’s artwork, in particular that sense of “what you don’t see — that female Black body.” This Thursday, Civil will be moderating a conversation with fellow performance artist mayfield brooks and Jasmine Nyende, the lead vocalist of FUPU, an all-Black, femme punk band from South Los Angeles. “I’m interested in being real about the scaffolding of unrecognized labor of Black women and femme bodies related to performance,” said Civil of their upcoming dialogue. 

While the installation is currently closed to the public due to COVID-19 regulations, the event is a special way to engage with Gale’s work, while also being a rare and intimate chance to hear three Black women performers talk about the labor that goes into their work and what it is like up on that stage.

When: Thursday, October 22, 5–6:30pm (PDT)
Where: Zoom

More info at CAAM 

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Elisa Wouk Almino

Elisa Wouk Almino is a senior editor at Hyperallergic. She is based in Los Angeles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.